Monday, October 24, 2011

Forests Worth More than a Gold Mine

I am partial to forests. I believe that of all the natural resources, forests provide the most environmental and economic "bang for the buck." Consider all of the following that forests do, and feel free to add items in the comments section as I am undoubtedly leaving out some important functions. Forests provide:

  • a renewable source of building materials and associated jobs
  • a renewable source of paper products and associated jobs
  • clean air services (filtering and trapping air pollutants)
  • clean water services by preventing nutrient and other chemical run-off from entering our waterways; ultimately protecting fisheries in areas like the Gulf (since eutrophication from nutrient runoff leads to "dead zones" where fish cannot survive).
  • flood control services
  • regulation of local ambient air temperatures in urban and rural areas during the summer
  • energy cost savings for households and businesses
  • a renewable source of fuel in the form of cellulosic ethanol (which unlike starch/corn-based ethanol has actually been shown to reduce greenhouse gases)
  • a global climate regulator and major carbon sink/source of carbon sequestration (20 percent of all carbon emissions worldwide come from forest destruction and degradation - more than is emitted by the transportation sector each year)
  • renewable and biodegradable plastics (we will, after all, run out of petroleum one day)
  • aesthetic values (a park without a tree is, well, not a park)
  • cultural values (think sequoias and redwoods)
  • recreational values (hunting, hiking, and other activities)
  • endangered and other animal species habitat

...and the list goes on. When considering the total value of all these services, it would seem that forests are indeed worth more than a gold mine, as was recently discussed by Jason Sohigian of the Armenia Tree Project, seen below.

- Blake Hudson

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